July 04, 2005 | Graham

Can Schapelle come up with the goods?

Schapelle Corby is to have her case reopened. This would appear to be her last chance to work out what the Indonesian justice system is really about. It is not about abstract notions of justice, it is about power, influence and most significantly, money.
Probably the stupidest thing that has happened in the whole affair to date was the complaint by the Perth QC Mark Trowell, who was retained by the Australian government, that her Indonesian counsel had asked for $500,000 so as to bribe the judges.
Of course they did, but that is the way things are done there. By complaining Trowell would have made things more difficult, not easier, for Corby, with little or no impact on the whole system. Doubt that? Well read this story from the ABC Correspondents Report about Tommy Suharto, billionaire son of the former president. Tommy was convicted and sentenced to jail for 15 years for having a judge who was investigating him assassinated. He’s been in jail four years, had five years cut-off his sentence on appeal, received various other remissions, and is expected to be out of jail within a year.

TIM PALMER: What you’re suggesting is that in Indonesia today justice in the Indonesia of Suharto, money speaks more loudly than justice.
FRANZ JUANITA: Yes, I think… that’s what I think, you see, because it continues, and it’s even worse than during Suharto, because it is more widespread than during Suharto. It’s built into the system. So it’s weak.

Indonesia has such a weak central government that in a way everything has been outsourced. It might have a continental system of law, but it follows the eastern system of civil servants essentially being given the right to charge a fee for their services. In the Ottoman Empire it was common practice for civil service positions to be sold because of the baksheesh that they attracted. We might call this baksheesh bribery, or perhaps extortion, but to people in such societies, it is just the way that things are done.
The lead judge who convicted Corby boasted that he had convicted 500 or so drug dealers – a huge number, even if he has had a long career to date – yet a Gold Coast Bulletin reporter had no trouble walking out onto the streets and being offered drugs. How do the police select who they charge? I’d suggest the judges only see a very “poor” class of offender – those without the means to avoid going to court.
It poses an interesting moral dilemma. I think there is good reason to make it illegal for Australian businesses to bribe officials in foreign countries, and there are even better reasons to oppose payments of ransom, but I think the Corby case is qualitatively different from these situations. It is not about profit, and it will have little effect on the propensity of the Indonesian justice system to charge young Australians for drug offences. But $500,000 might save a life in a justice system that pays little heed to nice legal arguments.
The rehearing looks like Schappelle Corby’s opportunity to pay up, present some face-saving (for the judges) evidence, and come home. At the same time we need to find ways to persuade the Indonesians to change their ways, if only for the interests of Indonesian citizens themselves.

Posted by Graham at 11:14 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Unfortunately I think the relentless media attention that this case has received will only serve to harden the resolve of the Indonesian judges involved.
    There is even now talk that someone else may come forward and confess ownership of the drugs.

    Comment by Guy — July 5, 2005 @ 10:26 am

  2. Graham, I vote you as the new Jesus! Long may your supremacy of the blogworld remain.

    Comment by Benno — July 5, 2005 @ 2:25 pm

  3. Does my admiration count me as a web groupie? Or would that be demeaning the 12 diciples?

    Comment by benno — July 6, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

  4. Benno,
    I’m still trying to work out whether you’re having a lend of me or not, which means I can’t be the new Jesus, because I’m sure he would have been able to read your mind! And possibly cure you as well. 😉

    Comment by Graham Young — July 6, 2005 @ 1:20 pm

  5. LOL. I’m not having a lend of you. I really do think that you are a good blogger, I just express my admiration in a bizarre way.In this instance the new jesus was meant as a metaphor with a humourous bent but still a serious attempt at praise.
    Perhaps we need and tags.
    But then again sometimes I am serious but just have incredibly unorthodox opinions. I think I will just employ tags like above to make it clear for everybody.

    Comment by Benno — July 11, 2005 @ 10:00 am

  6. To save me embarrasment my tags disappeared. But here they are again.
    (irony)(/irony) and (sincerity)(/sincerity).

    Comment by benno — July 11, 2005 @ 10:02 am

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